05. My Aunt, Billie

05. My Aunt, Billie

Billie was one of the first people I remember in my life having house plants. I remember spending a day helping clean the house on 6th Avenue in Spokane and dusting the plants. I can’t imagine my mom ever having a house plant.

Billie always had a piano in her home and actually played it well. She also played fiddle. Her house always seemed full of music, whether it was her playing the piano or the fiddle or Joe calling square dances. I remember her teaching me hymns like “Whispering Hope” when I was a child and it remained one of my favorite hymns for my lifetime.

I think Billie was also instrumental in my interest of dance. She and Joe were always taking us to square dances or organizing square dances in their living room. She was also a great cake decorator and some years later would create the cake for Darlene’s wedding in Escondido. Billie had also been a hair dresser earlier in her life. Of course, stereotypically, many gay men become hair dressers and I wonder now if she had known any when she was in that field.

I wonder now if it ever dawned on Ole or Billie that I was different than Roger and Don and other boys. I wonder if they noticed that I didn’t want to play with army men or that I wanted to play-act or dance or watch how Billie made a rose for a cake rather than roughhouse with the boys? Somehow, I connected with both Ole and Billie in wonderful ways and they were lifesavers for me as their daughters Nola and Gail would be later in my life.



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